Adam H. Frank, PhD, principal at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado, provides consulting, speaking, and professional development services specializing in school discipline, legal practices, student-centered engagement, leadership development, and change theory.
Reading the signs when your staff goes “BIG.”
Discipline done well is a loving process with these practical strategies.
Leaders need to get comfortable “embracing the messy” for productivity.
Edgy topics around the concept of discipline.
Forming groups vs committees.
Systems thinking structures around challenging ideas and criticism to make the ideas better.
Establish routines instead of rules within a real world liability and expectations for parents and students.
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Read the Transcript here.
Dr. Adam Frank Transcript
In today’s show, I talked to Dr. Adam Frank, and we dug into some edgy topics around the concept of discipline. And he’s not somebody who’s all about just punish, punish, punish, but he’s not all about only restoring either with no discipline. He’s somewhere in the middle, and he has some interesting ideas. So that’s why I brought him into the show. He has a great book that you might wanna check out. But before we start talking about the book, I think something you’ll be interested in is, we unexpectedly had a rich conversation about this idea of people on the bus. Are they on the right seat? And that kind of thing. And it was really good. And I know that you’ll like it. So if you’ve ever had a critic in your school, I know everybody has that, then you’ll really appreciate our conversation about how we think about them, how we deal with them, and that kind of thing. Hey, this is Danny. I am a principal development and retention expert. I’m a bestselling author and host of this podcast, which is actually one of the most downloaded shows in the world and the most downloaded show in school leadership. The Better Leaders, better Schools podcast is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school now. And we’ll be right back after a few messages from our show sponsors.
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Even the most highly effective Ruckus Maker can’t be in all classrooms offering incredible feedback all the time. So what if teachers could gather their own feedback without relying on you, and not only their own feedback, but meaningful feedback that would improve their instruction? Well check out the Teach FX app by visiting teachfx.com/betterleaders, and you can pilot their program today. Go to teach fx.com/betterleaders to see how, why do students struggle? I’d argue that they lack access to quality instruction, but think about it, that’s totally out of their control. What if there was something we could teach kids, then what if there was something within their control that would help them be successful in every class? And it’s not a magic pill or a figment of your imagination. When students internalize executive functioning skills, they succeed. Check out the new self-paced online course brought to you by our friends at Organized Binder that shows teachers how to equip their students with executive functioning skills. You can learn [email protected]/go. Well, hey there, Ruckus Maker. Today I’m joined by Adam H. Frank, PhD, principal at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado. Provides consulting, speaking and professional development services specializing in school discipline, legal practices, student-centered engagement, leadership development in change theory. You can contact Adam through Twitter at Dr. Adam Frank, or through email at Adam Frank, 12 [email protected]. And Adam and I have had dinner together. So he is fun to have a beer and share a meal with too. Adam or Dr. Frank, welcome to the show.
Dr Adam (04:27):
Great to be here. Big fan of your work, and I appreciate you reaching out to me and hooking up over dinner to get this happening.
You have an interesting take on discipline, which we’ll dig into. But before we get there I think you had a story about a BIG building improvement group. And why that even matters. So let’s start there.
Dr Adam (04:54):
Yeah. So that actually goes back to my last school. I was at my previous one, and it actually relates not to discipline, but to the topic of my, actually my dissertation for my PhD It Dealt largely with change. And so that was a bit of the case study in my dissertation. And it was a really cool thing. So it was a school with a union, and I worked very closely with the union president, an awesome guy, a good friend, and a great teacher, great leader. And there was a lot of frustration in that pass over leadership decisions. And I was hired into that environment and made myself a listener paying attention to what, what’s going on, trying to understand the culture as a new employee. And as the years went on, we had a lot of committees and very clear, when I say committees, that a lot of times we’re very like leadership driven, agendas and it creates a vibe where people don’t feel comfortable speaking up or talking about the elephants in the room.
Dr Adam (06:02):
And it wasn’t just the committee work, there’s kind of the culture there. There was a lot of frustration among teachers. So the teachers decided, you know what, and this is pretty cool, this is talk about Ruckus Maker, the union president. And the teachers decided, we’re gonna create our own group to drive decisions in the building, and we’re gonna have regular meetings. It’s going to be led by us, the teachers, and everybody’s welcome administrators. You’re welcome too. You’re invited, but you are not running the meeting. This is our meeting. And what was really interesting is they named the group and the name was super intriguing. They called it big, and it stood for Building and Improvement group. And I talk about in my dissertation that it’s pretty interesting that they called it a group and not a committee. And I think that that speaks so much to what they were doing. And so they had this group that met and had procedures, and it kind of operated like a committee. But it was true, we’re gonna talk about what we want to talk about. Maybe the administration moves forward with our ideas. Maybe they don’t, but at least we’re gonna talk about it and we’re gonna propose to the administration what we think. And I attended most of them. And it actually got enough attention that we had the district office, curriculum director, superintendents even some board members paying attention and asking, can we pop it? Some of them may be just selfish to hear what’s being talked about. But also to drive decisions. And so this group became effective, and when administration kind of changed and we started to do more of what they were asking, guess what happened big it disappeared.
Dr Adam (08:11):
Another lesson I learned is that when a swell comes up and people organize, that’s a signpost that something’s not actually. It’s not like people just wanna organize and protest just to be difficult. They’re crying out that there’s an issue here. And when these big things swell in an organization, it’s a signpost to pay attention. And then when we paid attention and made systemic changes, BIG felt no need to be around anymore. So it was a really interesting phenomenon that I do talk about my dissertation and have stuck with me and kudos to the teachers For making a ruckus.
We love making a ruckus and helping education evolve. So it was a signal that something needed to be addressed. I’m curious, what were some of the amazing things that came out of that group forming and then the shifts made in the school and that kind of thing?
Dr Adam (09:16):
Some of the things that came out of it was doing committee work differently. So we had to think about, and even past that school, as I’ve moved on to another school and developed my own leadership philosophies from my experience it’s taught me, and that’s what my dissertation centered on BIG, but then grew from it. So I actually did a case study about committee work. And the impact on staff morale. I’ve learned a lot of, really, not only that school, but me selfishly as a leader, I learned a ton. Not just from doing research in a dissertation, but doing research that actually was embedded in the real culture of our school. And I learned a ton of things about committee work,Norms are great. And committees. Giving Pathways for participants to provide agenda items, whether on the spot or in an organized way in advance. Ways to do it, but letting them have a voice into what’s talked about. And then one of the biggest things is setting the stage as the leader almost at every meeting to encourage people to almost praise disagreement, and to normalize it. You are encouraged to bring up uncomfortable ideas.
Dr Adam (10:39):
And by having that norm at the beginning, it gives people so much freedom and trust. And then when they bring up something that’s controversial or critical, you as leader need to actually stop and praise them for doing that. And it just reinforces that norm that we’re gonna be a group who has no elephants in the room. We’re gonna talk all authentically. And so that’s probably the biggest thing I took away from BIG. But it led to changes in the building. It led to changes of how we were meeting the needs of students with severe at risk situations and behavior. It led to staff PD where we actually involved staff and program decision making that led to real programs. So it just kind of shifted the culture that we’re really actually gonna listen now as leaders to our employees.
Yeah. So I have a friend, a Super smart person like you, Dr. Chris Jones. And he’s able to turn Critics Into cheerleaders. Or enemies into evangelists.
Dr Adam (11:47):Oh, I love that.
Daniel (11:48):That’s how, that’s the phrasing I like to use.
Dr Adam (11:50):Gotta write that down.
Daniel (11:51):You should. It’s a good, good idea. But often people see that person who has criticism, we judge it right away. Is it legitimate or not? Often leaders take it way too personally.
Dr Adam (12:08):
Yes. Danny, tell me that first word. You said something into evangelists,
Enemies. Enemies into evangel enemies, evangelists. Because that’s the thing. I really like that terminology and the way I describe it, because some people love to talk about the bus metaphor and the right seat on the bus and all this kind of stuff. It’s like when you have just a little bit of friction and resistance, their Seat’s Gone now, they’re now an enemy. And the language then becomes how do we move them out? Really quickly too, maybe this isn’t the profession for you, it’s like, wow, how do we get there so fast? And do you really want an organization where people can’t challenge ideas? I wanna do a bit of a deeper dive into this because it’s so important to invite that and have healthy discussion around challenging ideas and criticism because it makes the ideas better. If it’s done in a healthy way, if it’s just like somebody dumping all over you that’s not necessary or helpful. But feedback that can sometimes Maybe even hurt a little bit if it makes you better. We should seek that out. I’m just wondering when you have those kinds of discussions with your staff? Even today, are there any things when you think about it that you do naturally that helps it be productive versus a complete session or just ripping on each other, that kind of stuff. Does that make sense?
Dr Adam (13:44):
That’s actually so funny you bring that up because this is a major passion of mine and actually something that I’ve done some research on too, not to get overly research based. ’cause I’m a practitioner. I love practicality.
Daniel (13:58):Please don’t, it’ll be over my head.
Dr Adam (14:00):
No, no. You’re, you’re right on cue. There’s some really good work by Peter Sange and A famous Michael Fulton and Michael Len and I’ve done a lot of reading on them when I was getting my PhD. Sange talks about learning organizations. Talk about Systems thinking Stuff I really buy into, and that’s kind of something later that I know we were talking about kind of embracing the messy, this idea that like, change is organic, people are real. So embrace that, like having messy conversations. As a leader, you create stability by entertaining the messy in a calm way. So it actually models messy normal. And that’s where things don’t get into a gripe session because this is all productive. Like, they see that as a new norm, a new value, and then you, and then I’m not gonna get totally into change theory, but you allow change for momentum to build before you start doing real specific planning and structure building. You know, I would say as a rule of thumb, let year one be a conversation that’s messy. And then let it build and then watch where the momentum goes.
Dr Adam (15:20):
Pay attention to it and be ready to adapt. And as momentum builds, a lot of times it will build in alignment to what your vision is. You’re in the conversations, you’re leading a lot of the conversations. Let the momentum build with the people. And then in year two, start to build structures. And in year two, those structures don’t be overly structured. I talk about a thing called structured flexibility and how they can co-exist. And then maybe year three, you start to really fine tune the structure, and then you start to bring in accountability where we’re all gonna be accountable to this structure. That still might change. But that’s kind of a change theory model that I really embrace. The other thing you brought up are outliers. I can’t remember who I read who talked about this idea, but in a systems thinking way, I was introduced several years ago to a new way of thinking about the bus. And if they’re on the bus and they’re outliers, they’re on the bus, like you can pretend they’re not, you can try to get them off, but they’re on the bus. I think a lot of leaders ignore those people or shut those people out. But when you shut them out, they’re still part of the system. Actually they’re the enemy that they were to, you might even be greater with more fury behind your back. And it’s naive to think that they’re not on the bus. They’re on the bus. A new approach, a different approach is how do you win with your outliers.
Dr Adam (17:03):
And then not only do you convert them, so to speak, and maybe they convert you getting back into big. How do you convert them? And then odds are they’re very skilled in a lot of different ways. Everybody has skills, so now you’ve converted them, you’ve learned from them, and now you’re maximizing their skills. They might be your new bus driver. So it’s a very different mindset. So in my leadership, I try to actually have the best relationships with the outliers to not only win with them, but to to learn from ’em.
I thought about that intuitively when I was talking to Chris about how to Shift His thinking around him. And now he champions this idea. But basically they’re giving you the roadmap for I have some concerns. Here’s where I’m stuck, and if you can support me and gimme training and attention, and show me that you’re listening, I can come around to this idea. I’m just telling you where I’m stuck. And then if you could get that chief critic on your side, everybody else is watching that now. NowThey’re with you now. And so that’s something that I think people miss. So cool. That that was really good. I appreciate you.
Dr Adam (18:24):
And let me, let me dive back into that. I mean, you’re so bringing up a topic I love in terms of them providing that roadmap that’s kinda like the signposts. But these people, when you engage with them it is cliche as the sounds, it builds that trust. And so they see you as an authentic leader. And one tip I would give to all leaders is you don’t need to remind people you’re the leader. They know you are . You don’t have to position yourself, but it’s Good for my ego. You don’t need to position yourself to remind them you’re the boss. You already are. They know that. And I think it’s sad that leaders, some, because of ego try to position themselves in the way they interact to remind people that they have power and they just be real and be authentic. And people want a good leader. You don’t have to posture yourself.
Yeah, absolutely. Adam, I’m really enjoying this conversation. We’re gonna take a quick break to get some messages in from our show sponsors. And when we return, I want to talk about the book that you have and we’re here to talk about too. What do you see in your classrooms and how did you see it? As a principal, you can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you help support every teacher in the building? With Teach FX, teachers can gather their own feedback without relying on classroom observations. The Teach FX Instructional Coaching app is like giving every teacher their own instructional coach whenever they want it. Ruckus Makers can pilot teach FX with their teachers, visit teach fx.com/better leaders to learn how it’s teachfx.com/betterleaders. If your students are struggling to stay focused and your teachers are showing signs of burnout, you need to act now.
The good news is that there’s a path forward. It is possible to lay the foundation for learning and to re-energize your teachers. And that’s found in executive functioning skills. When students get practiced with these skills, they can better self-regulate, and they are more successful academically. Our friends at Organized Binder have released a new self-paced course that will teach you how to teach these executive functioning skills and set your students up for success. The goal of this course is to help your students be more successful and get teachers back to the work they’re called to do. Learn [email protected]/go. Help your students be more successful and get your teachers back to the work they’re called [email protected]/go. All right, and we’re back with Dr. Adam Frank. He’s a practitioner, current principal, and he has a book, believe it or not, Harry Wong did The Forward. And I used to read Harry’s book every year, even as a veteran. Like, listen, I was a teacher for, oh almost two decades. Every single year. It was my practice to read that, what was it called? First Days of School, I think First Days of School.
I read that even though I knew what I was doing. It just got me in the right energy and the right mindset to how to start the year off strong. So you have a book, Harry did the Forward, it’s a non-punitive school discipline. Relational practices to help students overcome problem behaviors. And so congrats on having that book. maybe more enjoyable than writing the dissertation, but I don’t wanna, yes, Don’t wanna get into that, but I know you have some really interesting ideas about discipline and there’s the people who are just like, punished and all this kind of stuff. And then there’s people who are just like we just, we’re gonna ignore it all the time. And there’s not a lot in the middle. I think you, whatever, I don’t wanna put words in your mouth. You have some interesting ideas that I think blend some approaches to discipline and do it well. And you say that discipline done well is a loving process. So I think that’s a good entry point. And how, how can schools and systems and the Ruckus Maker listen, how can they do discipline well and still do it in a compassionate way?
Dr Adam (22:48):
Thanks, Danny. No, it’s been super cool. Been super cool writing this book. Teachers College Press picked it up, so hopefully a lot of college professors because of Columbia’s Columbia University’s influence hopefully there’ll be professors across the nation who are using this as an auxiliary book for their students. But it’s also a book that can be read by any practitioner. I even had a parent read it, which I was surprised by, and she loved it and said that it was super helpful for parenting. My wife has asked why I’m not as good a parent as I write. That’s a topic for another time.
We all could, all of us with partners have probably had to deal with that question at some time.
Dr Adam (23:38):
It’s hard when they’re your bloodline and you’re living space with ’em nonstop. I have no advice on parenting, but on working with students, so this book, first of all, let’s talk about Harry Wong, the First Days of School. I agree. I still have handed that book out to teachers who are struggling in the classroom and are asking for help.
Dr Adam (24:00):
It’s a timeless book. We do, it is capturing kids’ hearts at our school, which is an awesome organization and philosophy. I mean, capturing Kids’ hearts, talks about greeting students at the door that was in the first days of school. There’s so many things like that that are now old hat approaches in good classrooms that Harry was the first one really writing about it. He talks about routines instead of rules. And a lot of behavior just improves by having good routines. I’ve been heavily influenced by Harry Wong. I actually refer to him in my book. So I just reached out to his organization. He’s still alive. He is like 90 years old, still involved in good work, reached out to his organization and Luck of the drawl, got him in touch with me, and he agreed to do the Forward. And his name’s on the book, and if you’re in education, he’s a giant in terms of name.
Dr Adam (24:58):
A super cool honor. But with the book, so writing this book took some kind of angry passion on my part because two reasons. I have read all these books on restorative justice and pretty well read on the topic, gone to conferences. I love the idea of restorative justice, but everything I’ve ever read in the seminars I’ve gone to and stuff like that, and we talk about it in our schools and in our districts, is such a popular topic right now. Restorative practices, restorative justice, it seems to never talk about how to do the discipline when discipline must be involved. And so if you can avoid discipline by good routines, good relationships, that’s the ideal. But when a bad choice has been made, how do you interact with that kid? What do you do? Restorative justice talks about circles and restoring the relationship, kind of like after the bad decisions been made, but in a real world with real liability and real societal issues and expectations, how do you do the discipline?
Dr Adam (26:16):
And so I was reading a really popular book on restorative justice. It sold tons of copies. And during Covid, I actually put the book down and said, that’s it. It’s time for me to write a book that talks about what these books aren’t talking about. So that was one kind of angry passion. The other Angry Passion is writing a book where this book that I wrote talks about discipline, it’s called Non-Punitive School Discipline. It is a book on discipline. And there are probably critics of my book who don’t like that. You call it non-punitive discipline, it seems kind of punitive. No, it’s because we’re talking about discipline. If I wrote a book on taxes, we don’t love the idea of taxes, but taxes are real. And we need to look at taxes in a proper way and have good conversations about why we are being taxed? What is it going towards? How much this book talks about discipline, but how to do it well and how to do it practically so school leaders and teachers can use it, but then how to do it in ways that are highly relational, highly skillful, and strategic so that behavior actually changes.
Let’s get to some of that because the Ruckus Maker listing loves the practical. They wanna put stuff into practice right now and get a result. And really that’s something that I want to be known for in the brand. Better Leaders, Better Schools, be known for. Here’s an idea, put it into practice. You get a positive result. When it comes to the discipline side of things and still doing it in a loving, compassionate way, give us something. What’s something that the Ruckus Maker listening can do or something they could do with teachers to help them with their classrooms?
Dr Adam (28:17):
I actually present my book quite often in the state of Colorado. And one thing I’ve learned from presenting is I don’t wanna be overly conceptual because it gets missed. I’ll quickly communicate the main framework, which is conceptual. Then I’ll get into some nuggets. I’ve learned that’s what people want. The main framework is this book helps you develop a way of thinking in terms of how you position yourself in the relationship with the kid. A lot of us position ourselves pretty well, but it’s still a versus relationship.
Dr Adam (28:56):
We want to create a relational relationship where you are as the authority figure. You don’t have to remind them like the boss, as the authority figure, your goal is to be a helper that shows two paths to the student. And through teaching, through laying out potential consequences, actually through all of that, just like a parent would to a kid, you lay out the two paths and your goal is to get the kid to choose the right path and the right path. May per may involve discipline. Like a kid may get a timeout if they’re your child or lose a privilege or whatever. So there is discipline, but you’re helping them see the two paths. And if you are too much in the way, they only see you, they only see the rules, they only see the negative. But if you can position yourself next to them, figuratively or even behind them, you are helping them see the paths. And then the other conceptual thing I talk about in the book is the words you choose to use. So our brains connect to words and images actually.
Dr Adam (30:12):
So I talk about the use of like even kind of showing images to kids that help them see the ups and downs of life and how it has downs. But it can have ups and they can see that. But the words you use are incredibly important. So you become trained in saying things, Hey, you don’t have to make this choice. It’s your choice, but I want you to make the right choice ’cause they care about you. It’s a powerful choice. The words in that statement, there’s multiple parts of what I just said that are very powerful to a young person.
Daniel (30:45):I care that you make the right choice. So that’s what I resonated with.
Dr Adam (30:50):
So it talks about your positionality with the kid and then it talks about the words you choose to use. And then getting into the rest of the book, there’s a section on misconceptions, which I love. And then there’s a section on strategies that are more kind of like relational ahas, real clever kind of approaches. And then there’s a section on resources that have like actual, like frameworks that you can implement in schools. And then the last section deals with case studies. So it gives you some real tricky case studies that are about a paragraph long. Unruly Irma, I give them low clever names of these students and they’re different scenarios. A teacher or a school could actually break up into groups and it doesn’t tell you what to do with the kid.
Dr Adam (31:38):
It gives you the scenario and then you let practitioners talk through how they’d handle it and they can learn a lot listening to each other of how they handle these situations. So that’s the layout of the book. Here’s one that we use all the time and schools where I’ve been at. So I’m gonna give you a nugget. It’s called a, in lieu of slash reduction for discipline. So it’s very simple. I’m gonna give the classic example. Kid has a vape at school. You are gonna discipline for that. Say you give a three day suspension, you actually give the three day suspension. That’s what you issue. Or a six day or whatever the school decides to do. But you give a three day suspension, then you put a note in the suspension paperwork that says if you come to school on the second day and take a class, we’ve actually partnered in pay to get a robust two to four hour class on the dangers of vaping. We partnered with the company. If you come to school the second day and take that online class, then your suspension will be reduced to one day. There’s the balance. They still did get suspended, but it was reduced from three to one. And it, in lieu of is the learning that takes place in the online class instead of the full suspension. Courts do this stuff all the time. Courts make deals all the time to change behavior. So to me, that’s a restorative practice. And I refer to it as in lieu of or reducing discipline.
Well you’re giving me a choice again. And you’re educating along the way. There is very real consequences, dangers to be vaping and that kind of stuff. So thank you for that Denver nugget.How about that? You like what I did there?
Dr Adam (33:33):I’m a Nuggets fan now. I just moved here two years ago, but nuggets are looking good.
Thank you for that. We can see how practical and also the conceptual model of the book. We’ll link that up in the show notes before I get to the last few questions I ask all my guests,
There’s a component talking appearance, which can sometimes be the bane of any school leader’s existence. And we’re worried like how are they gonna react? What are they gonna just like, it’s not something that I know many leaders look forward to, but it’s reality you can’t ignore it and it’s a part of the job. Do you have any tips for working with parents, especially around this idea of discipline?
Dr Adam (34:18):
This is actually a topic I may in the future consider writing a book on in and of itself actually. It’s one of the major gaps that exist for school leaders. You’re not trained on it when you’re a teacher. You deal with one or two difficult situations in a year. So you don’t get repetition. But when you’re a school leader, you’re dealing with potentially every day. A lot of the things I’ve already talked about apply. So I think it’s incredibly important to start with a frame of mind that believes that every child is their parent’s most prized physician. So you, you start from that lens. I mean, that parent cares about nothing more than their child. So will they be emotional? Will they be somewhat unreasonable? Yes. It’s part of being a loving parent. So you enter that and it kind of gets rid of ego, it gets rid of a fear of like, oh, I hope they’re not unreasonable.
Dr Adam (35:20):
They’re dealing with their kid and there’s a concern. So I think the goal with the parent is to just ease into that and be a really good listener. Find spots where you can agree with them. So they might say they have a problem with this teacher because of these grading practices. And you might not actually totally agree. You might not even have all the facts to say whether you agree or not, but you can empathize with the fact that what they’re feeling is very real. And we don’t want that feeling. We don’t want kids feeling that way. The teacher doesn’t want that. So you find what you can agree with them on. And that’s empathy. And then the other thing I talked about is the words you choose to use. So the longer you’re an administrator, the more this becomes a habit, but you learn phrases that are just really effective.
Dr Adam (36:11):
So here’s a controversial one. When you’re dealing with a parent who’s kind of arguing about maybe the discipline and decision you’ve made you say something like, certainly you understand as a parent it’s a little bit condescending, but you’re connecting with them as a parent. You’re almost subconsciously reminding them that kids do need accountability even in their own home. You as a parent have discipline. What loving parent doesn’t discipline. And you kind of shift that conversation with the parent and then you talk about the decision you made. I could give more examples, but it, it really, there’s not a perfect sentence whether with kids or with parents, but there are certain ways to say things that resonate with people and change the whole trajectory of a conversation. And then when you go about it this way, the other tip I would say is go into the conversation knowing your facts.
Dr Adam (37:12):
So that especially if you’re highly emotional and maybe really empathetic is a good thing, you don’t wanna be in a situation where you’re flip-flopping all the time. Like you wanna know where the school stands and what you will and will not agree on. So I think it’s good to kind of have your game face ready when you go into those calls. But then contrary to that, if they bring up a new set of facts, be willing to flow into the new facts. You don’t have to resolve everything in that phone call. You can have another phone call with them later once you check into things. But be open to, if they bring up a new set of facts or a new perspective, be willing to to fall into that and listen. And it might change the whole course of the conversation. And then the last thing I would say is when you do all these things, parents see you as super real. And just like I talked about with staff, I mean nothing, it doesn’t make it about ego, don’t make it about positionality. I’m in charge. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit loose in your words. Be professional, but be, don’t be overly administrative. Just be real. Be real, be Real. And when you do that, you’ll win over parents like crazy. And I love talking to parents on the phone. I’ve become really comfortable with it. And every phone call, even if it’s contentious, it ends with a win. And that parent just really speaks your praises out in the community because they believe that you care and you listen.
Daniel (38:44): That matters. Something that I like to do, I’ll just leave the Ruckus Maker with a couple ideas too. Not only do they care so much about that kid, I think it’s great to say we’re on the same team. I actually care about this kid too and their success and so saying, let’s make decisions so that we can agree our what’s in the student’s best interests and take as best as we can, as hard and understand, but take ourselves out of it. We’re on the same team. So let’s remember that as we dig into this topic. The other thing, and it goes back to the education piece of stuff and where you would tell a student here’s some choices you have. I would educate parents on the code of conduct. Like I literally, this is what I have to follow.
Here’s what has happened and here’s the options that we have. And that really helped too. Like the classic example I give was there was a fight and the one parent wanted this other kid suspended, kicked outta school, expelled. Actually the video revealed that that parent’s kid actually started the fight. Sucker punched, the kid wasn’t even looking right. And then turned around and it escalated and it got worse. And given all the facts. So you want this kid expelled, your student is obviously perfect and did no wrong. Here’s what the studio code of conduct says. Can you help me navigate it? If you were in my seat, what would you do? What would be fair and equitable? And it’s really interesting when you, because they are so invested in their kid. But you get them to think from other perspectives. It really would really help. And I’d actually sometimes write this stuff on a whiteboard because saying it with emotions is one thing.
Then when you have to, if you read what you just said to a principal and it’s like there, it’s like, let me rethink that. You know what I mean? Like that, that does sound a little bit ridiculous. I’d love to move us to the last few questions. I asked all the guests and Adam, you’ve been great. So if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message be?
Dr Adam (40:59):
That’s such a tough question. I love it that I’m kind of thinking off the top of my head right now on it. So it’s probably not a perfect answer, but kind of where my gut goes is, okay, we’ll just try this one. They have to be with you for seven hours. Make it meaningful and fun.
Why not? Good reflection. So that’s the facts. Again, they’re with you for seven hours. Make it meaningful and fun.
Dr Adam (41:27):
And I think that where I go with that thought, what a travesty is it? That school, these people who don’t have the same voice we have, ’cause they’re young seven hours, that’s a long time sitting in chairs, a real long time being talked at. I mean, it’s a long day. And if school could truly be something where they are doing the thinking, they are doing the problem solving, they are getting voices, they are having fun. All those things that actually are highly stimulating too. What a good use of the seven days or the seven hours. Five days a week. Let’s just think about the kids’ experience at school And let’s really reflect on that and try to maximize it so it’s not just boring.
Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think it’s appropriate to remind the Ruckus Maker listening. You know, when you hear those sponsor messages, Try out Teach fx. They’re doing a free two week trial now. So teach fx.com/bl. And That’s Exactly what it does. It helps You identify, am I talking too much as the teacher? Want kids to be more engaged, having fun doing the thinking. That’s what Teach FX does. So check that out. You’re building your dream school. And you’re not constrained by any types of resources. Your only limitation, Adam, is your ability to imagine.
Daniel (43:01):Would you build that dream school? What would be your three guiding principles?
Dr Adam (43:05):
These are tough questions. I’m a big believer in public education, so I think there’s a lot of things that we do really well that we’re doing really well for students. So I don’t think it’s throwing it all out, but if you could really just start from scratch and, and here are some concepts that I would really want. I’m good with having all the curricula, all the curricula so ma yes, you need math, you need English, you need science. But what if the curriculum, almost like a PhD program, funny enough, could start with a base and have standards and teach those, those basic standards. But then once that is reached, it’s a quick turn into self-student-driven with the help of a teacher to guide, but student-driven, interest-based learning related to that curriculum. That’s what an E H D program is. I mean, I take a statistics class, I learn about quantitative statistics, I get a foundation and then we quickly shift into my research project in that class that’s gonna train me to write a dissertation. It’s gonna get me to practice statistics, but I can pick any topic under the sun of what I want to do. Why can’t we have schools to do that?
Daniel (44:28):That’s really interesting.
Dr Adam (44:31):
It’d be less work actually. It’d be less work on the teacher’s part. They’d be more of a guide.
Dr Adam (44:38):
So I love, I love that. I think that from that the other idea of, of flexibility of, of what kids get to choose. And again, I think it has a base. So it’s kinda like, it’s kind of like college. You have your elect, you have your general studies, but then you quickly get into your major. So colleges already do this. Why can’t high schools, why can’t high schools, and this is career pathways, this is college and career readiness, but getting better at pathways. And, and so you quickly get out of your general studies and you start to dive into your major at the high school level. Why not?
Daniel (45:17):Yeah, that would be powerful as well.
Dr Adam (45:19):Did I answer it ?
I think so. I like the idea of the majors and the idea of modeling the dissertation in terms of Guiding the work as students. I actually did that with my seniors when I was teaching them in high school. You’re Preaching to the choir here? We covered a lot of ground today, Adam. Of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you wanna Ruckus Maker to remember?
Dr Adam (45:45):
I think it would probably match my main ideal, which is to be authentic. Be authentic. Hone your skills. Develop your, gain your experience. Make your errors that you learn from that. That’s all part of it. It doesn’t happen overnight, but as you really hone in on your leadership job and skills, get to a point where you’re just really authentic and you’re really about, like Peter Sange talks about and what he writes, you’re really about learning. And I don’t mean like academic learning, I mean like reflection. You’re open to new thinking all the time and you’re leading an organization that’s not afraid of, that’s not afraid of hard conversations. You’re exposing elephants in the room just to lead authentically and be authentic. I think that’s my most powerful message and probably the thing I’m most, most passionate about. And it’s probably the thing that’s made an effect. If you say, what’s the one thing that’s made you an effective leader? If I had to pick one thing, I’d say that’s the difference maker for all the people you work with.
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast, Ruckus Maker. How would you like to lead with confidence, swap exhaustion for energy? Turn your critics into cheerleaders and so much more. The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world-class leadership program designed for growth-minded school leaders just like you. Go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/mastermind. Learn more about our program and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk about how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a BIPOC only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Buy for now and go make a ruckus.
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